CURF 2: Becoming a researcher

Over the last few weeks, I have advanced on my project investigating the therapeutic potential of Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery for treating tumors in the pineal gland. I have collected a large portion of the preliminary and treatment data for my patients. I have specifically collected information for patients who display pineocytomas and will continue gathering data for patients presenting with papillary tumors. I also have a few more variables to collect data on for patients with pineocytomas and will then analyze the data to answer my research question, can Gamma Knife treatments effectively manage pineal gland region tumors. 

I became interested in research as I was passionate about how the treatments that healthcare professionals use on a daily basis are discovered as well as about how we could improve the current treatments used in the field further. Aspiring to become a physician in the future, research allows me to learn about the current treatments and what improvements can be made to further manage conditions patients experience more effectively. As a result, I looked into a field that I had conducted research in high school, neurology, and I read many papers and research interests of principal investigators at the University of Pittsburgh. Then, I came across Dr. Ajay Niranjan, who studied a novel and non-invasive therapy, Gamma Knife, to treat a variety of neurological conditions including brain metastases. I was fascinated about how this specific therapy could prevent many of the side effects associated with traditional open brain surgery as well as treat such a diverse range of conditions effectively. 

For students interested in conducting research, I would advise them to explore the fields that interest them and look for a principal investigator that studies a specific field and subtopic that the students are passionate about. I would then contact the researcher and show your interest in the research, asking if there was a way that the student could get involved in the work that they did. 

Conducting research gives me the opportunity to not only work in a field that is advancing the medicine that we know today, but it also allows me to explore the field of medicine that I am so passionate about. I am privileged to learn about various brain conditions as well as how neurosurgeons manage them currently. I witness multiple neurosurgeries and read about a diverse range of patients undergoing treatment, thereby allowing me to prepare towards the field of medicine that I am pursuing in the upcoming years!

This is a picture of the patient chart room where I have collected a large portion of my data. This chart room has files from patients who underwent Gamma Knife treatment before 2010 when EPIC charting databases were created.

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